Monday, November 15, 2010

The Wish List


Sometimes I Wish...

• I could play the saxophone.
• I didn’t curse so much.
• All the violence would end.
• Monique would stop screaming.
• People would leave judging others to GOD.
• I didn’t procrastinate as much as I do.
• My student loans would disappear.
• Tupac never signed with Death Row.
• Jabari’s body was bulletproof and he would be alive right now.
• J’Dilla was still alive.
• People gave more and took less.
• Sarah Palin would retire from politricks.
• Everybody had food, clothing and shelter.
• Black men were more unified.
• I could know what my dog thinks.
• The Black National Anthem was more accepted.
• I could create a cure for hatred.
• One day I’ll write a book that will be considered a classic.
• More people knew that genuine love requires concentration and effort.
• We would do a better job of taking care of one another.

What's on your wish list?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Hottentot Venus

Venus Noire movie trailer

Saarjite Baartman, a young Khosian woman from Southern Africa whose body was the main attraction at public spectacles in both England and France for over five years, is perhaps the most infamous case of a Khosian body on display.

Baartman, who became known as the Hottentot Venus, was brought to Europe from Cape Town in 1810 by an English ship's surgeon who wished to publicly exhibit the woman's steatopygia, her enlarged buttocks. Her physique, particularly her large buttocks, became the object of popular fascination when Baartman was exhibited naked in a cage at Piccadilly, England. When abolitionists mobilized to put an end to Baartman's public display, she informed them that she participated in the spectacles of her own volition. She even shared in profits with her exhibitor.

The spectacle of Baartman's body, however, continued even after her death at the age of twenty-six. Pseudo-scientists interested in investigating "primitive sexuality" dissected and cast her genitals in wax. Baartman, as far as we know, was the first person of Khosian-descent to be dismembered and displayed in this manner. Anatomist Georges Curvier presented Baartman's dissected labia before the Academie Royale de Medecine, in order to allow them "to see the nature of the labia" (Curvier and his contemporaries concluded that Baartman's oversized primitive genitalia was physical proof of the African women's "primitive sexual appetite." Baartman's genitalia continued to be exhibited at La Musée de l'Homme, the institution to which Curvier belonged, long after her death.

This introduction to the history of human displays of people of color demonstrates that cultural difference and "otherness" were visually observed on the "native" body, whether in live human exhibitions or in dissected body parts on public display. Both forms of spectacle often served to promote Western colonial domination by configuring non-white cultures as being in need of discipline, civilization, and industry.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

This or That or the Other...


This post is like the Diet Coke of Don's Likes and Dislikes

• Denzel Washington or Will Smith or Morgan Freeman
• McDonald’s or White Castle or Wendy’s
• John Stewart or Steven Colbert or Bill Maher
• Tombstone or Digiorno’s or Stouffer’s
• Gain or Tide or Cheer
• Kindle or Ipad or Books
• The Today Show or Good Morning America or The Early Show
• Verizon or T-Mobile or AT&T
• Corn Flakes or Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran
• CNN or MSNBC or Fox News
• Mary J. Blige or Aretha Franklin or Mariah Carey
• Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig (James Bonds)
• Bad Boy or The Dungeon Family or Ruff Ryders
• Plane or Train or Automobile
• Lizz Wright or Cassandra Wilson or Dianne Reeves

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thoughts About For Colored Girls


*Disclaimer* this is not a review of the film. These are my thoughts about the film and Tyler Perry's involvement.

For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff is an Obie award winning choreopoem by Ntozake Shange about black female identity. First performed in Coffee houses over 35 years ago, it is hailed as a landmark of American feminist theater. The play is a collection of 20 poems delivered by seven nameless women represented by the colors of the rainbow (yellow, blue, orange, red, purple, brown and green.) The production was 78 minutes of emotional purging presented on a bare stage, with choreographed monologues addressing issues like love, abandonment, rape, abortion, domestic violence and motherhood, all from a feminist and African-American perspective. The defining poetry and sparseness in staging made the presentation of the soliloquies powerful. The end of the play brought all women together for a “laying on of hands” which evoked the power of womanhood.

When the news broke that Tyler Perry was adapting Ntozake Shange’s transcendent work to the big screen as writer and director, I and others shouted a collective WTF? I immediately thought that TP’s approach to filmmaking was too simplistic and underwhelming and his adaptation would not match Shange’s emotional dexterity. Also, he has never resisted the temptation to characterize his female leads as victims in his films, (Some of his films send the message that all women need is the church and a good man and all their problems will disappear.) How dare he attempt to turn a groundbreaking and radical work into one of his suffocating melodramas? This is surely his bid for cinematic respectability but why couldn’t he ruin somebody else’s work? I was afraid that Perry’s minimalistic and micro waved approach to script writing and script analysis would take the heart out of Shange’s lucid and fluid language.

Guess what? A brother was wrong.

For Colored Girls is good, really good. Perry’s adaptation stands on its own because I could feel that he cared about the original play so much that he made certain to represent it properly on screen and he added some additional characters, altering some elements that separate the film from its original text. I won’t get into the changed elements to heavy as not to spoil some of the new twists and nuances that weren’t in the original play, but added nicely to the existing text. One added character is Gilda, (played by the incomparable Phylicia Rashad) the wise and matriarchal building manager who adds a much needed cohesion to hold the story together in film format.

The cast was stellar and gave a pulse to Shange’s illuminated musings. Loretta Devine is humorously gullible. Anika Noni Rose is tragically courageous. Kimberly Elise is fantastically heartbreaking. Thandie Newton is blissfully afflicted. Macy Gray is wonderfully spooky and Phylicia Rashad is a revelation. Janet Jackson (much better than in previous films), Kerry Washington (cute but meh’) and Whoopi Goldberg (to over the top) were just okay.

The actors, Michael Ealy ( convincingly conflicted) Hill Harper (typically solid) and Khalil Kain (unexpectedly menacing) all played their roles well but were there to compliment the women’s performances.

Some men will be offended by the harsh portrayal of males in the film and accuse Perry of male bashing once again. But if men objectively examine the pathology of the characters in the film they represent brothers that you may know either in your neighborhood or even in your family, all the males with the exception of the rapist had real true to life issues that face black men on a daily basis.

The central theme of the movie was about black women confronting the truth and being allowed to feel anger, sadness, sorrow and grief without being looked at as pathetic, as bitches and as victims but just human. I think a lot of the negative reviews the film has received come from people’s prejudice of Tyler Perry, if that’s not the case, I really can’t call it, because I didn’t see a bad movie, I saw a movie about black women "finding God in themselves and loving themselves fiercely" thru the pain, disappointments and tragedies. That’s what I saw.

I am an analytical guy, so I approached the viewing of this film like it was Tyler Perry’s feature film debut. I didn’t want to judge him based on his previous works; I wanted to judge this film on its own merits. That approach worked because I laughed, felt mournful, was appalled, felt exhausted, was captivated and felt the rawness of human emotion in a two hour time frame. There was some melodrama and it wasn’t perfect, but what movie is perfect? (Either you like it or you don’t), it shouldn’t be judged based on who the director is. With this film, Perry proved that his cinematic vision is expanding and he is capable of producing respectable work.

Side note: Even if you didn’t like the film consider this: Tyler Perry should get props for having the resources to bring Shange’s seminal work to the screen, and more than likely, it wouldn’t have been made if he didn’t do it. I hope this is a new direction that he is going in, because I look forward to seeing other beloved black books and plays coming to the big screen like “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Dark by Kenji Jasper”, Octavia Butler’s “Kindred”, “Top Dog/Underdog” by Suzan Lori-Parks and August Wilson’s “Fences”. Tyler Perry's great work with For Colored Girls shows that with a love and reverence of the source material black art can be produced beautifully on screen.

Friday, November 05, 2010

George Bush Doesn't Care About Kanye West


In a Today Show interview with Matt Lauer, former President George Bush recently stated that Kanye West’s diss heard round the world “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during the Hurricane Katrina charity telecast, was the worst moment of his presidency.

Really George?! Not Hurricane Katrina? Not the Weapons of mass destruction fluke? What about 911? Afghanistan and Iraq, war crimes, tortures at Guantanamo, the economic downturn. None of these things ring a bell?

Out of all of the horrible and more significant things you could’ve mentioned, Kanye West’s rant was the worst moment of your presidency?

Dubya’s brain never fails to disappoint.

I bet you Kanye is somewhere feeling himself.

Mike Meyer's reaction is priceless!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Before Beyonce: Nina Simone


Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist. Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is most associated with jazz music. Simone originally aspired to become a classical pianist, but her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles that include classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Her vocal style is characterized by intense passion, a loose vibrato, and a slightly androgynous timbre, in part due to her unusually low vocal range which veered between the alto and tenor ranges (occasionally even reaching baritone lows). Also known as The High Priestess of Soul, she paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions. Within one album or concert she could fluctuate between exuberant happiness and tragic melancholy. These fluctuations also characterized her own personality and personal life, amplified by bipolar disorder with which she was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, something not widely known until after her death in 2003, though she wrote of it openly in her autobiography published in 1992. According to Nadine Cohodas, Simone's biographer, Ms. Simone was first diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and later with schizophrenia.

Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the greatest body of her work released between 1958 (when she made her debut with (Little Girl Blue) and 1974. Her most well known songs include "My Baby Just Cares for Me", "I Put a Spell on You", "Four Women", "I Loves You Porgy", "Feeling Good", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Sinnerman", "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", "Mississippi Goddam", "Ain't Got No, I Got Life," "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl", and "Love Me or Leave Me".

Her music and message made a strong and lasting impact on culture, illustrated by the numerous contemporary artists who cite her as an important influence. Several hip hop musicians and other modern artists sample and remix Simone's rhythms and beats on their tracks. In particular, Talib Kweli and Mos Def routinely pay tribute to her outstanding and soulful musical style. Many of her songs are featured on motion picture soundtracks, as well as in video games, commercials, and TV series.

I Ain't Got No...I Got Life

I Wish I Knew How It Feels to be Free